The Odd One Out
Copyright © 2015
by Gary Conder
All Rights Reserved
by Gary Conder
All Rights Reserved
It was Saturday and the previous day Charlie received his final pay packet. The workman he had temporary replaced, had returned from his injury and there wasn't another position for Charlie at the Bacon Factory.
That night after receiving his final pay he and Colt celebrated, or more to the point drowned Charlie's sorrow in company with the cricket team. Charlie had grown to like working at the Bacon Factory and management appreciated his work ethics, saying if there were to be a future vacancy he would be the first to be considered. They even presented him with a bonus of a hundred dollars.
Saturday morning's breakfast was a sober affair; both were supporting painful regret for the amount of alcohol they had consumed the previous night. Colt eventually broke the silence.
"So what will you do now?" He asked while sipping black coffee.
"I don't rightly know. I knew it would eventually happen but put it out of my mind." Charlie's coffee was also black and bitter and not to his preference and didn't help his mood or his head. Even his stomach was in rebellion to the mud like beverage.
"Old man Ferguson said he'd put in a word for you to keep you in town for the cricket team." Colt reminded.
"So he said but he's been up at the Bacon Factor on a number of occasions and hasn't mentioned anything."
"You know you can stay on here work or no work, I'll give you plenty to do." Colt paused and laughed; "keeping my bed warm for a start." His head regretted the laugh, "Ohhh I don't feel well at all." He complained holding his stooped head in his hands.
Charlie attempted to laugh but his head was equally suffering, "I still need to do something. I have to feel useful. You have the farm and your horses. I can't just sit around sipping coffee or drinking beer while watching you work all day." He commented.
"I wouldn't mind."
"But I would."
"What would you like to do?" Colt asked.
"That's the problem, I don't know, I'd like to bowel for Australia and get buggers like you out but I'm not that good, besides I don't like travelling and living out of a suitcase."
Colt amended his question. "I really meant in the short term.
"I'd like to stay on here for a while if that is alright with you." Charlie smiled and cocked his head to a side, how could, how would Colt refuse.
"Like I said, you can stay here as long as you wish job or no job I can more than afford it. I could even pay you to do nothing if you like. Besides I've become use to you messing up the joint."
"I'm not that bad; am I?" Charlie apologised.
"Na - just kidding,"
Charlie rinsed his coffee mug and placed it onto the drying rack, his back turned towards colt and his teddy bears smiling ludicrously, bringing on an emotional state within Colt he couldn't understand. He wanted to cry. Quickly he took a deep breath and swallowed at the lump forming in his throat. Giving a nervous cough he spoke. "Well I better check on the horses." His voice croaked as he quickly left the room for the stables.
After their breakfast conversation Colt disappeared for some time, leaving Charlie to play housemaid. Charlie called it earning his keep and Colt let him do so. Besides Colt may have been fastidious in the house but never liked what he called women's work and when his parents were alive there wasn't a need to, as the house had been so packed with junk it was impossible to swing the proverbial cat, never mind manoeuvre a vacuum cleaner. Still Jillian kept the empty spaces between quite presentable.
Standing alone in the Block House was his Grandfather's buggy and often when Colt needed solitude he would work waxing its aging timber, imagining what it would be like driving a horse at trot down the main street, maybe some jingling bells, as found on snow sleigh. Somewhat ostentatious maybe and he knew he never would do so but possibly along the back roads and fire tracks may be acceptable, of course without the bells drawing attention.
While sitting on the driver's seat behind the horseless hitching arms, Colt was joined by Max. With one bound the dog was on the leather seat beside its master, sitting in style and comfort. Both dog and master eyes cast to the front behind a fantasy horse on some imaginary country track. He could almost hear the dull repetitive thud of hooves upon baked ground as they travelled. Smell the dust thrown up by trotting hooves and turning wheels.
"What do you think Max?" Colt sighed. The dog pushed its cold wet nose into his leg and released a soft whimper.
"You like Charlie don't you?"
"Of course you do, I've seen him giving you extra bits."
"What are we going to do feller?"
"Come on mate you must have a suggestion."
Colt's soft words encouraged Max to snuggle closer and Colt responded by stroking him lightly on the neck.
"You know feller we are all trapped within our character and can't be anything about it, even if it is wished to do so." Colt paused and ran his hand full length down the dog's back, "Harry's right mate, I should do something; say something but the words won't come. Maybe you could put in a good word for me eh."
As Colt spoke, he heard footsteps coming from the rear, turning he found Charlie close by.
"I thought I'd find you in here," Charlie declared and joined the two in the buggy, "tight squeeze with you up here Max." Charlie complained and pushed the dog over. Max farted and both boys laughed and forced him to the ground. "Whatcha up ta?" Charlie asked flippantly.
"Just thinking about stuff,"
"There's not a lot going on around here at present. How about we go camping up in the Cumberland Hills for a few days?" Colt suggested.
"I hope you don't mean hitching this heap of junk to one of your nags." Charlie bounced his arse up and down on the seat causing the buggy to rock.
"Cut that out, my head's bad enough without you rocking the damn thing about."
"No in your ute."
"Who would look after the horses?" Charlie asked.
"Dennis is in town and knows horses, I'm sure he wouldn't mind keeping an eye on the place for a while." With each word Colt grew more excited towards his suggestion. He hadn't been camping since his teen years. Back then it was more to avoid the antics of his parents. When Stan and Jillian were at their worse he would saddle one of the horses and go. Sometimes skipping school for days and on his return it was as if he hadn't been away, he wouldn't even be missed and letters from school referring to his absence would go unanswered by his parents, under the belief the young fellow hadn't missed anything of importance, instead was being educated in the theatre of life.
Often Colt would take along his rifle but never pointed it at a living thing. Only once had he done so, even if it were only to scare away the flying foxes out of the ripening mangoes. In the milky glow of moonlight he took aim at the closest bat and squeezed the trigger. The night's serenity had been erased with a deafening crack as the rifle discharged, followed by one hell of a scurry away from the mango tree, as bats took to the air; all but one which hung in pain from a branch, flapping its last gasps of life and crying like a baby.
With the morning Colt revisited the tree to find the dead bat still hanging in the high branches, a physical reminder of his cruel act. Eventually its carcass was found by crows and slowly disappeared from sight but not from memory.
Colt could never kill again. From that day on it was target practice only and he was most proficient, able to take the heart out of the centre of an ace card at a hundred paces; well almost, he was forced to admit they were short paces but none of his friends were as accurate.
"I've never slept in a tent, what about the bugs and snakes and spiders?" Charlie asked giving a slight shudder at the thought.
"Na, a few bugs in your sleeping bag maybe but the tent zips, so no snakes or lizards or your spiders get in." Colt assured.
"How about Mavis, what would she think about us out there together in the scrub. She already acts suspicious whenever she sees me around. In fact sometimes she can be rather blunt but I pretend I don't understand."
"Sorry about Mavis but I cop it as well, I guess she will eventually get over it."
"I'm not really troubled, it's I don't want to be the cause of your undoing."
"We'll take fishing gear and the rifle, two red-neck hunters together doing what a man's gotta do." Colt laughed. The excitement of camping out with Charlie was commencing to clear the wool from his head.
"I like the idea, when?"
"As soon as I can arrange something with Dennis but there is something I want to do first."
"What would that be?"
"You're good at finding things on the net. I want you to do a little searching for me."
Charlie agreed. He knew his way around the net well enough and secretly, when Colt was out of the house would sneak a peek at some pornographic site and was clever enough to cover his tracks so Colt didn't discover where he had been looking.
What Charlie didn't realise, on the occasion he had forgotten to cover those tracks and the first thing Colt viewed when turning on the computer was a very well built, excited, white, clean shaven young man displaying his worldly goods. Colt just clicked his way out, with the comment, 'dirty little bugger,' and continued checking the weather forecast.
Charlie gave a grubby grin, "sure," he said mockingly.
"No Charlie not for that kind of stuff, I know what you get up to when I'm not around." Colt gently placed his index finger on to Charlie's chest and gave him a slight backwards push.
"You can't I -"
Before Charlie could finish Colt cut across his proclamation.
"No you don't always hide your tracks, but I do agree with your taste in models."
"What are you looking for? Obviously you can find your way around the net." Charlie claimed.
"Yes to check the weather and read news pages but not much else. You know I'm interested in finding Toby my younger brother and I've been given a clue and the clue is he was given to a feller who had a horse that came second in the Doomben cup."
"What was the name of the horse?" Charlie asked.
"I don't know, only that it came second."
"Shit mate without a name that is a needle in a haystack." Charlie complained. "No I'll reclassify that, more like looking for a needle that isn't there, in a haystack that doesn't exist." He added.
"I sorta have the name of the winning horse." Colt added.
"What year?" Charlie asked and climbed down for the buggy, "Come on now is as good a time to start as any." He suggested leading the way into the house.
Minutes later they were seated in front of the computer monitor with Charlie's finger hovering above the key board.
"What year did you say?" Charlie again asked.
"I didn't, I don't know."
"Very well what was the name of the winning horse?"
"I was told it had a sort of French name."
"Haystack bloody haystack," Charlie hissed the words while his finger remained hovering high above the keys. "Alright let's try something. Charlie two fingers typed, 'winner and placing's Doomben Cup.'
Immediately a multitude of pages came into view, mostly about anything other than the Doomben Cup but one did give some information. Charlie entered into the site.
"Here we go what year did you say?" Charlie again asked.
"Was it since Two Thousand?"
"I shouldn't think so; Toby would be around eighteen or nineteen now, so at least that many years back."
"Rats, the placing information doesn't go back beyond the year Two Thousand and they have only listed the winner's name before that year." Charlie sounded disappointed. He tried a different site but that was similar, also not stating any minor placing's. He returned to the original site.
"Right you said the winner sounded French." Charlie asked.
"That's what Louise told me."
"Lord Nelson in Seventy-three," He commented reading out one of the winner's name.
"Nelson was a Pom."
"Of course he was, how about Fair Chance in Fifty-six?" Charlie suggested.
"Does that sound French to you?"
"Nope, here's one, Gay Felt in Fifty-one. Maybe it should be called Feeling Gay." Charlie laughed and shook his head. "You're right; not funny." He continued.
"Rio Fe in Forty-Nine, ah here we go how about French Echo in Fifty-three but that's a long way back?"
"That would be it. Louise didn't say his horse was in the race when Toby was born, it may have been years before, even ten or twenty years as pleasant memories last longer in the country. Who was second?"
"As I said it only gives minor places after Two Thousand."
"Bugger, how do we find out?" Colt sounded most disappointed.
"I'll tell you what I'll send an email to the Racing board, they would know." Charlie quickly found the web address and entered into Hotmail and commenced to type.
"How do you know my Hotmail password?" Colt asked somewhat amazed at the speed his friend found his way around the computer.
"I can read you like a book mate. It's the name of your horse and your birth date."
"I'm gonna change it."
Charlie clicked send and his message became part of the World Wide Web, no longer his property but that of who ever wanted it. "Why don't you use emails?" Charlie asked as the message zapped from the screen.
"Don't know anyone at distance I want to talk to."
"Have you ever sent an email?" Charlie asked.
"What about buying things?"
"I've shops in town for that."
Charlie gave a grin of agreement, "suppose you have a point, besides you should never put anything on the net you wouldn't put on a billboard alongside a major highway," he advocated.
"While unlike you I have a good imagination and don't need porn." Clot mocked, while patiently staring at the monitor expecting it to burst into life with the information he required as Charlie went for coffee.
"Want a coffee?" Charlie called from the kitchen.
"Ok, how long does it take to get an answer?" Colt was still seated in front of the monitor when Charlie returned with the coffee, his eyes fixed upon the ninemsn page, displaying the daily news of deaths and tragedies and clips about film stars and celebrities and their pathetic little lives.
"Firstly it's Saturday and everyone will be home and they won't see your message until Monday, secondly it's possible they won't bother answering it at all." Charlie passed a mug of coffee to Colt.
"Oh, I sorta thought it was all like automatic, you ask and some computer somewhere answers." Colt felt a wave of embarrassment overcome him for allowing his computer inadequacy to surface.
"That would be nice and sometimes can happen but usually only to advise that your email was received and would eventually be dealt with by a real living person." Charlie turned off the computer.
"And not like the unreal fellers in your porn sites eh?" Colt mocked.
"Drink your coffee."
The Sunday church bells again arrive on the light breeze, once more reminding Colt of that tragic day, as a vehicle crossed the rickety bridge to park in the gravel beyond the stairs.
A tall overweight man alighted from the black Mercedes and cast his hawkish eyes towards Colt leaning against the verandah rail. The driver ran a hand through his thinning hair and shaded his eyes against the morning sun.
"Good morning Mr. Ferguson, what brings you out this way?" Colt asked from his high vantage.
"I have some news for Charlie, if he's around." Ferguson called and mounted the stairs.
"Come up, would you like coffee?" Colt offered and called back into the kitchen for Charlie. Charlie arrived carrying a tea towel.
"No coffee for me Russell, I just come from breakfast at the club." Ferguson reached the verandah almost out of breath. Regaining his composure he turned to Charlie, "a domesticated young fellow," he commented somewhat crudely, his eyes on Charlie's tea towel.
"Someone has to do it." Charlie awkwardly disposed of the cloth.
Ferguson leant upon the rail close to Colt and surveyed the country with a greedy eye. "If you ever want to sell, come and see me first, I could do wonders with this stretch of land."
"It won't be for sale Mr. Ferguson." Colt assured.
"The name's Les, Russell call me Les." Ferguson instructed gruffly and turned to speak with Charlie. "Are you still intending to remain in town?" He asked.
"If I could find work," Charlie answered.
"What about joining the cricket team?" Ferguson added.
"Again it would depend on finding work, as I just finished at the Bacon Factory."
"That's no worries; I have arranged a job for you at the golf club; greens man how would that suit you?"
Ferguson was most smug with his achievement as provider of work and appropriator of the team's champion spin bowler from Mt. Oakey.
"It would suite fine Les. I like the idea of working outdoors. When would I need to start?" Charlie asked feeling the weight of losing his position lift from his shoulders. Now he would have reason to stay with Colt, without the inflection of sexuality and waylay a suspicious insinuating Mavis and the likes of Eric.
"There's a slight problem there, it won't be for a couple of weeks, maybe three, would that cause a problem?"
"That's even better as we were thinking of taking," Charlie paused, he was about to say camping trip, instead declared it to be a hunting trip, believing hunting would seem more manly than camping.
"Where to," Ferguson enquired.
"The Cumberland's," Charlie answered as if he knew them well.
"The Cumberland's are national park, so I wouldn't advise any shooting there." Ferguson directed towards Colt.
"Actually Les we were more thinking of fishing in the Cumberland creek outside the park." Colt exacted, taking the emphases away from his friends suggestion of illegal activities.
"Quite right, as you know I'm on the Parks Committee and I wouldn't want young Charlie here arrested before we've had the chance to bend his bowling arm." Ferguson warned.
Digressing from his hunting caution Ferguson once again turned his attention towards Charlie, "So you are in agreement with working at the Golf Club?"
"For sure Les."
Les Ferguson released a most self gratifying smirk and prepared to depart. "I'll be in contact with the details soon." He concluded, wished Colt good day, again reminding if he wished to sell the property he would be the man to approach and was gone.
As Ferguson drove away Charlie became quite animated. He walked around his handsome face beaming with excitement and if his chest filled more with contentment it would burst.
"What do you think of that?" He asked.
"I think it's the best news I've heard all week." Colt answered.
"In a week! More like in a month, no make that three months." Charlie corrected.
As he spoke Charlie realised he had based his staying on an assumption, even if it was a well perceived assumption and one he already knew the answer to. He hadn't asked Colt if he could remain with him. "Do you mind if I still board here?" He asked.
"Charlie you're not a boarder you are a mate and can stay here as long as you wish. In fact I insist on you doing so."
It was settled Charlie would be staying and Colt, for the present, wouldn't have to face his indecisions. He could continue to act out the caring partner without actually having to put it in words.
Mavis was with Judy at the cricket club when the boys arrived. It had been decided she would use the club house and bar for Judy's wedding reception and seeing she was on the women's committee of the club, there would be a fee reduction.
"Mavis just the person I need to talk with." Colt called out on entering into the bar. Mavis acknowledged her nephew with a nod but continued conversation withe the bar manager. Concluding her conversation she approached her nephew.
"What's on you mind East?" She asked while receiving a double gin and lime.
"Is Dennis in town?"
"He was but has gone bush to visit his mate, why?"
"When will he be back?" Colt asked.
"He said he would call in tomorrow evening, what's the problem?" Mavis was curious, as it wasn't common place to find Colt in company with her son, mostly at Christmas and family reunions; otherwise it was a polite greeting and little more.
Dennis was a schemer, always coming up with some plan to make money and usually borrowing other peoples to do so, while loosing everything in the process. Colt had quickly learnt to say no to his proposals but for the sake he was family remained on friendly terms. Besides as long as you didn't allow him to put his hand in your pocket, Dennis was otherwise relatively harmless.
"I was thinking of taking Charlie for a spot of fishing and hunting up in the hills and wanted to ask Dennis if he'd feed the horses and keep an eye on the place for a few days." Colt explained.
"I'm sure he would only be happy to do so but you know Dennis, at a price." Mavis nodded towards one of the tables, "I've been on my feet all day and I need to rest my ankles, come on there's a spare table."
"I won't if you don't mind Mavis; I need to talk to Eric about next year's cricket." Colt gave his aunt a gentle forgiving expression and commenced to join the team.
"Suit yourself, if you haven't got time to talk to your old auntie, that's fine by me." Mavis turned to Charlie, "good luck at the golf club and you better bring your bowling skills with you, or there will be hell to pay. Les Ferguson had to pull a lot of strings to get you in." Mavis collected her drink, forced a smile and left their company.
Eric was huddled in a corner with Phil Straub and Rowan Matthews, who on seeing the boys waved them over.
"Eric," Charlie greeted. Colt gave a gentle nod.
"Well if it aint Mr. And Mrs. Blake, we don't see much of you since the enemy moved in." Eric was half tanked and sarcastic as ever but with Eric Chambers his sarcasm was delivered in good humour and no one took him seriously.
"I won't be the enemy next season." Charlie protested as Colt returned to the bar for drinks.
"Hey Russell, a double scotch eh." Eric called after him.
"I heard you were joining the team, congratulations mate." Eric offered his hand and Charlie accepted. He sat as Colt returned with the drinks.
"I hear you two are going fishing." Phil Straub said.
"Shit mate news spreads like fertilizer around this town, who told you?" Colt was surprised with Straub's knowledge, as he wished to keep their expedition quiet, lest one or more of his team mates got wind of the trip and wish to tag along.
"You can't fart in this town without everyone knowing." Straub answered.
"You should know, you're always farting," Rowan Matthews complained and pushed Straub further into the corner with his elbow.
"No seriously, Ferguson told me, if I had some time off I'd join you, there's some great trout in the Cumberland." Straub suggested.
"You would be welcome but three in a two man tent could be a little crowded." Colt answered, while thinking he was fortunate Phil Straub lacked time owing.
"Especially with the way Phil farts." Eric added and downed the dregs of his drink. "Thanks mate," He expressed, accepting Colt's double scotch. "I owe you one." But Eric never repaid his debt and Colt never complained.
"So at last Wysie, you're one of us, I should think Blakie here will be happy not having to face you next year. He is getting a little long in the tooth and slow. Straub humorously surmised.
"What do you think of playing with us?" Matthews put forward.
"I seriously like the idea."
"What's your football boot like?" Rowan Matthews continued. Charlie gave a grunt and shook his head. "You don't want to know, believe me you wouldn't want to know, besides I like Rugby."
"Traitor!" Rose in unison, including the voice of Colt.
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